Outstanding Directors 2022: Amy Langer
Other board service
Greater MSP (2018–present)
Vireo Health (2019–2020)
Economic Club of Minnesota (2009–2018)
Michigan State University (2010–2016)
Washburn Center for Children (2005–2015)
Lake Country School (2008–2014)
Some years back, a business acquaintance approached Amy Langer with an opportunity to join a board in need of gender diversity. It would be great pay, he assured her, and not a lot of work. She turned it down without hesitation.
“That sounds like my nightmare,” says Langer, co-founder and owner of Salo, a Minneapolis-based professional services company that provides workforce solutions and senior-level consulting to companies nationwide. “I’m interested in values around entrepreneurship. A willingness to change the future. An ability to make an impact greater than you can in your circle. I’m interested in organizations wanting to make a change, a transformation.”
She found that challenge at HealthPartners. In her six years on the board, which she currently chairs, Langer has served on a number of committees including audit, compensation, executive, and quality. She’s steered conversations about health equity, access to care, and employee health and wellness.
Elected shortly before Andrea Walsh took over as CEO, Langer, with her expertise in accounting, finance, and human resources, provided guidance and support through the leadership transition as well as work culture advice for the nation’s largest consumer-governed nonprofit health care organization. HealthPartners serves more than 1.8 million members, employs more than 26,000 people, and counts 1,800 physicians in its care system.
“Amy’s belief that strong mental and physical health is key to building better communities is evident in her dedication to our board,” Walsh says. “She brings passion and a unique point of view, which, combined with her strategic mindset and approach to innovation, has helped us reach all our goals. Amy is committed to helping guide HealthPartners to provide quality and affordability, which in turn creates a positive impact in people’s lives.”
Her effectiveness is no accident. Langer spent years building her experience in board service, starting with the Washburn Center for Children in 2005, when she was still leading the fast-growing Salo as CEO, had a toddler and was pregnant with twins. She saw board service as part of her “leadership journey.”
“You’re in a room full of people with different leadership experiences. As a board member, by not being in the day-to-day, you have more perspective. You can be more patient. You see how things are done in other industries.” The work also challenges you to step up, she adds. “When I get into a boardroom, I always think about what I can contribute today. I’m learning so much; I want to make sure I’m giving as much as I’m getting.”
Langer encourages other executives and entrepreneurs to prepare for board service, almost like a job hunt. It’s advice she now shares with women participating in the Pipeline Initiative, a group to help BIPOC women move from board qualified to board ready; she helped spearhead it through the Minnesota chapter of Women Corporate Directors.
“The era of boards being filled by a group of old cronies is ending,” Langer says. “The next era is about who is not in our circle. I learn more from people with whom I disagree. We get a better, broader perspective with more minds at the table.”
Langer applies that same diversity, equity, and inclusion lens to her work with HealthPartners. “The disparities continue to be there. People with means have better access to care in the U.S. and better outcomes. How do we, as a nonprofit health organization, get to the root causes? How do we help manage costs? And what is our role in greater health and well-being—not just cost of care but access to food and mental health services?”
After stepping away from the day-to-day duties as Salo CEO in 2019, Langer felt ready to lead the HealthPartners board. Langer navigated the logistics of virtual board meetings and found ways for the board to remotely support an organization that was, as fellow board member Deb Hopp describes, “in the eye of the frightening and mercurial Covid storm.”
“She did this with grace, empathy, and good humor,” Hopp says. “This work is personal to her. It is only now that we are able to come together again in person that the effect of her skills and temperament can be fully appreciated.”
Langer emphasizes that health organizations united to inform and serve the community. “Management knew what to do,” she says. “Andrea Walsh was already a great leader, but she became an even better leader for our community. We can be proud of that in Minnesota.”